Japan: Art and Its Essence
Japan: Art and Its Essence
Property from an Important Private Collection
Kitano Ken (b. 1968)
Cosplay No. 6
gelatin silver print, meta-portrait of 34 girls cosplaying in anime costumes at a comike (comic market) in Taipei, Taiwan, April 18, 2009, our face (portrait series 1999-present), printed 2012
177.5 x 142 cm., 69⅞ x 56 in.
MEM Gallery, Tokyo
Kitano Ken began the series our face in 1999. The portraits appear to depict only a single face, but are in fact composite images of overlaid portraits. Each one is made up of members from a specific demographic layered on top of one another to create a unique individual made up of many. Kitano firsts takes individual portraits and then layers them at extremely low exposures onto a single sheet of photographic printing paper in the darkroom. Through numerous repeated micro-exposures, Kitano creates a morphing of layered images akin to digital layering and merging. The painstaking process leaves no room for error, as each individual image must be projected perfectly level in order to align the multitude of photographs into a single discernible portrait.
Ken Kitano describes the challenge of contemporary photography central to his project: ‘With the advent of the 21s century, photography seems to have outlived any set function. Will it cease to have any value at all? I myself have become interested in photography’s inherent potential to let viewers experience other worlds (however far removed from their own reality) with personal immediacy. How when looking at vintage photographs or snapshots of unknown children, for instance, we can immediately picture ourselves right there in the scene. If photography can contribute even a little toward us humans having ore of this sympathetic sense of “being there” what I call “spontaneous empathy” towards others and the world at large – that’s reason enough for photography to exist and to give hope that we can coexist.’1
Kitano was born in 1968, Tokyo. He graduated from the Nihon University College of Industrial Technology in 1991. Living and practicing in Tokyo, he won the Newcomer’s Award from the Photographic Society of Japan in 2007; the New Photographer Award for the 27th Higashikawa Award and the Special Prize for the 14th Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art, amongst others. Kitano’s work is housed in numerous public collections, including the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, the National Museum of Art, Osaka, the Irish Museum of Art and the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington.
For further reading on Kitano's photographic process, see Ken Kitano, “Overlaying, Connecting”, our face: Asia, (Tokyo, 2013).
For another example of a gelatin silver print from our face in the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, USA), object number 2013.9.11, go to:
For a further example in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, object number 2014.1116, go to:
1. Ken Kitano, Artist Statement for our face, 2010.